Creating mutations - a method used in plant breeding whereby random mutations are induced in plant DNA using chemicals or ionising radiation

Conventional mutagenesis increases the rate of spontaneous mutations in the genome of organisms by applying substances or radiation that damage DNA. 

Today, DNA-level, directed mutagenesis is now possible.

Mutagenesis is used in biological and medical research to identify the function of certain genes. Mutagensis is a commonly used tool for plant breeding. This random approach leads to unidentified changes in plant genomes.

Chemicals or radation such as gamma rays or neutron radiation can be used to cause random mutations in plant DNA. After treatment, resulting plants are screened for interesting properties. The genes responsible for these properties can then be bred into  existing cultivars.

Between 1965 and 1990, mutagenesis caused by radioactive radiation was systematically used for plant breeding. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, plant breeders released about 1,800 plants with radioactivity induced mutations. 

Today, chemically induced mutagenesis is still used in plant breeding to create plants with new properties that would be impossible to develop using conventional plant breeding.

  • In Canada, plants created by mutagenesis are considered "novel". They are subjected to the same legal requirements as genetically modified plants and can only be approved if deemed safe for the environment and human health.  

  • In the EU, there are no special regulations for plants derived from mutation breeding.

See also:
Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

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